Etched into the depths of an 800-year-old lava field, and with direct access to the mineral-rich Blue Lagoon, The Retreat Hotel lies a 45-minute drive south-west of Reykjavík. It's the kind of place where the natural wonders of the earth blend with stylish Scandi design.
In a setting as otherworldly as Iceland's - volcanoes grumble, glaciers carve and geysers pop and fizzle - the scenery from does most of the talking here. The outside blends seamlessly with the surroundings, while interiors draw inspiration from the landscape. The result is a space where natural materials shine - think: poured-concrete walls, slate floors covered with moss-coloured rugs and fireplaces made from solidified lava. It's all brought together by huge floor-to-ceiling windows that let the endless light flood in, while hypnotically blurring the line between myriad dazzling blues.
Decor and jaw-dropping vistas aside, the primary purpose here is to sink into a restorative, five-star luxury spa experience at the world-famous Blue Lagoon, which is much easier to do when you're secluded from the hundreds of tourists that descend on it every day. In truth, just being among this kind of sublime setting is enough to put any problems into perspective - it's hard to wallow in a place as spectacularly stirring as this.
Brushed with tones of brown, grey and dark green, the suites are bright and spacious with deliciously plump, comfortable beds that face out towards the horizon. They're divided over two levels - on the ground floor they come with terraces, some of which provide direct access to the water; while on the first floor there are balconies offering panoramic views of the moss-topped lava fields below. The showers have various spa-inspired settings and are stocked with Blue Lagoon toiletries, which were developed at the on-site science lab and infused with all the healing properties of the geothermal pools.
What's for breakfast?
Naturally, an abundance of skyr (Icelandic yoghurt), as well as fruit, vegetables, salmon and cheese. There's also an à la carte menu offering some egg dishes and porridge. It's a light, simple buffet but presumably that's because little fuel is required for bumbling around a spa all day.
How about lunch and dinner?
There are a couple of lunch options. The Spa Restaurant has the healthiest set-up with salads, sushi and juices, while the publicly accessible Lava Restaurant serves heartier fare including meat and fish dishes - albeit in a much more boisterous environment. Post lunch, it's all about the complimentary afternoon tea, an Icelandic tradition showcasing a selection of cakes. Yet the best in show undoubtedly goes to Moss Restaurant, where taste buds are serenaded by an endless parade of flavours. Go for the seven-course set menu and be wooed by the finest local ingredients reworked into something truly memorable on the plate. A wise man would also take the wine pairing.
Is there a bar?
There's not a standalone bar as such, but drinks are available from all the restaurants and, importantly, in the Blue Lagoon itself. Ring a bell for service in the top pool and champagne (or something less extravagant) is delivered through a cubby hole in the wall. The novelty never gets boring.
There's the Blue Lagoon itself, which is a much more restful experience when you're not battling with a queue of tourists to take the perfect selfie. Plus guests benefit from the world-class spa, which has lots of individual spaces designed to encourage relaxation, as well as an underground cavern for enacting the Blue Lagoon's unique, four-step cleansing ritual, featuring lava salt and algae. Treatments are also available - try the in-water massage for the floatiest, womb-like rub down.
Things I should know
The hotel is a great place for admiring the sherbet pink hues of an Icelandic sky at night - in summertime, the sun never sets. Come winter, it's a fabulous viewpoint for the merry dance of the Northern Lights - if luck is on your side.
Within a short walk I can find…
Seemingly endless black lava fields covered in olive-coloured moss, and the highest hill in the area, Þorbjörn (Thor's Bear), which can be scaled every afternoon on a guided walk. Just don't step on the moss - it's very, very sensitive.